There are many styles of yoga to explore and finding the type to address your needs, wants, and goals is important for your first experience and ongoing development. Not all yoga is the same. There are common threads, though for the most part each system is unique to the creator and can compliment or aggravate your ability to learn this unique system of introspection.
Here are questions to ponder and explore. Your answers will help you get clear as to how yoga can fit into your life. Keep them with you when contacting studios and teachers in your area to most effectively find the style for you.
First, what specifically do you wish to gain or work on as a result of participating with yoga?
- Strength and flexibility
- Decrease stress and increase relaxation
- Community and friends
- Increase focus and meditation
There are a few thousand different yoga positions with variations. Some systems explore the breadth of the spectrum, while others focus on a couple hundred and some teach less than thirty positions.
- Do you want variety with every class or practice a routine the same every time?
Additional questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want a calming and meditative method to unwind?
- Do you want a high intensity cardio workout?
- Do you want a class proficient at addressing injuries?
- Do you want hands on guidance and assistance in the poses or asanas?
In some styles of yoga, the temperature of the room is specifically adjusted for that practice. Some styles and studios don’t warm the practice room, keep the temperature ambient, or heat mildly, while others heat the room up to 110 degrees. Each environment results in a unique experience.
What temperature do you want to practice in?
- Do you want to sweat during class? How much?
- Do you want to be cool during class?
What about music:
- Do you want up-tempo, invigorating music and environment?
- Do you want relaxing, hypnotic music?
- Do you want silence?
When it comes to class size, I recommend starting with a private session with a highly experienced instructor who has a breakdown of the very basic tenets to teach you before going into a class.
These tenets may include: How to breathe, basic foot positions, language patterns, how to modify based on your needs or injuries, and the five common basic poses used in most classes.
This private session will build rapport with the instructor and the style, and ease anxiousness from feeling like a fish out of water. You will feel more confident when you choose to go into a class because you have some basic tools to fall back on for support if you get lost or confused.
- Do you want to be solo, with a dozen, or dozens of people?
Also ask yourself how you learn. It will help you choose a teacher and also listen/feel/hear the writing cues in class.
What is your main mode in which you experience every day?
- Visual (seeing with eyes): Look to the teacher or students doing the same position. Less is more. See the general shape and put your body into it the best you can reconstruct based on what you see, then breathe. The finer details will come with time and consistent practice of each pose.
- Auditory (hearing): Close your eyes and hear the cues of the teacher. If they say “Left hand by foot” and you get lost, remember you have a left hand, look at it if needed, move it by your foot. So frequently we “hear” communication but don’t take it in deeper to truly “listen” to the spoken message.
- Kinesthetic (feeling or sensing, experiential): When holding a pose for multiple breaths, close your eyes and listen to your breath. This shuts down the other two modes and loops you into feeling your own body and breath.
In a yoga session you will weave in and out of all of these but knowing your main mode will help you stay relaxed while learning. When you relax and ease into what you are learning, what you are learning becomes easier to learn.
Consider all these options, as yoga is an extension of yourself and who you are. Knowing what you like, want and need in a yoga setting is precisely what yoga is about. It is a tool for introspection and looking into yourself for answers to the questions you ponder. Most of us spend thousands of hours mastering a skill or art form; seldom in our culture do people make time to master themselves.
If you have not yet taken a yoga class, it is a journey.
It is a school to learn about you.